Ah, the month of amour… in the immortal words of one of cinema’s greatest lovers “Say no more, Mon Amour” (Rex Manning, Empire Records). So what romantic releases have the labels been warming over a hot stove for us then? Let’s take a look shall we?
After the blitzkrieg release schedule that was last month, February slows down a touch. A clutch of big 4K releases dominate the schedules (which of course are not included in these lists as they will get their own reviews), but in boutiques we trust and alongside all the usual Criterions and Arrows, we get some other interesting little releases to settle down to over that lovingly cooked meal with our loved ones and snuggle up to as the chocolates are busted out and our moods turn to more... romantic endeavours.
So without further ado, lets see what we can watch on disc this month...
10. Written on the Wind
(1956, Criterion and Sony, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
Initially dismissed and rediscovered in the 70s, Douglas Sirk and his particular brand of Hollywood melodrama is often seen as both highly trashy and derivative and yet deeply subversive of the American dream. And this star-driven, lush and glossy soap opera tale of a wealthy family torn apart by excess is perhaps the best example of his work.
Into the lives and loves of two horribly spoilt heirs to an oil dynasty (Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone) come Rock Hudson as Stack’s best friend and Lauren Bacall as the women who gets between them. And of course, being Sirk, Malone is also in love with Hudson and the entire thing is a glorious ode to excess on every level – the obscene wealth of the characters who think they can buy anything and the excess of the melodrama itself (every element of the film, from design to score to acting, heighten the very simple emotions of a work and lacks any sense of nuance and complexity – but designed to be so).
While very obviously a critique of American capitalism, it's so broad, you can see an immediate link between this and the trashy delights of the 80’s soaps that both carried on Sirk’s legacy and completely misunderstood it – Dallas and Dynasty. The acting is showboating (Stack especially, although Malone won an Oscar for her fun turn as a delicious strumpet), the script completely banal (its pivotal family collapse and murder all hinged on a low sperm count? Really?) and the characterisations barely perfunctory (Bacall especially was very dismissive of this in later life).
It's lovely to look at, thanks to Sirk’s glorious design and Technicolor usage, but it's derivative, broad and frankly a little dull, thanks to its overly simplistic story and characters. Clever and dissenting it may have been at the time, the intervening decades have seen this skewering of the human notion of greed done far better. Camp fun while it lasts then, but if you want a searing indictment of the American Dream starring Rock Hudson from 1956, go and watch ‘Giant’ instead…
It looks and sounds lovely though – some decent 2K restoration work shows off the Technicolor lushness wonderfully. Grainy of course, but fine detail is outstanding and it all looks like a proper ‘fillum’. There is some talk of a change in aspect ratio from 2.00:1 on previous releases (and original cinema release) to 1.85:1 (however there is some debate over what the actual OAR should be) but I didn’t notice any framing issues as a result. The lossless mono track is also suitably cleaned up and decent. However, extras disappoint for Criterion – two video extras totalling less than 45 mins offer an array of archival interviews with the actors and an academic critique of the film which, while interesting, is very basic.
Film: 5/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 4/10 Overall: 5/10
The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, WRITTEN ON THE WIND and LOVE AFFAIR on 21st February 2022 on Blu-ray™.
9. House of Gucci
(2021, Universal, Region Free UK Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
Achingly desperate to be Scorsese’s Casino, with the added dash of outrageous Italian familial machinations a la The Godfather and all put through the Ridley Scott visual porn blender of the 80’s and 90’s, the only thing this really shares with the Las Vegas crime epic is its bum-numbing run time (over 2 hours and 40 minutes!).
There’s no quibble with its cast from me – they all go as big as Scott wanted them to (some more than others, Jared Leto, we’re firmly pointing fingers at you here…), but with the right story and the right script, they could have very easily worked. Gaga and Driver are both solid, Gaga especially nailing the sex appeal and barely concealed venomous ambition of Patrizia Gucci, all wrapped up in the glorious big hairstyles and fashions of 80s and 90s Italy. Support from Irons and Pacino is exactly as expected and while the much-derided Leto feels like he’s in a crazy comedy, he still feels part of this insane ensemble. Of course its big, loud and showy, but who doesn’t love a good pantomime, right?
Yet the script lets them all down horribly. Casino worked because it let us deep into the workings of the Las Vegas scene, peaking behind the curtain and being as much a story of that as it was of the characters leading it. Here, there’s barely any actual ‘Gucci’, very little of the fashion world that supposedly the entire film is entrenched in. The family politicking and business double crosses mean nothing as we never really understand it: it’s like Scott expects us to hear ‘Gucci’ and just accept it as an ‘international fashion house’…..yet when talk turns to failing numbers and outdated attitudes to globalisation, that’s all it is. Talk, with nothing really to show for it, back it up or make us care.
And the effect is it means we’re not watching a Scorsese-esque cinematic epic, we’re watching an extended episode of a TV soap opera. And not even a good one. Easily akin to and suffering the same issues as ‘Written on the Wind’, except with a hugely bloated run-time, its, possibly aptly, all show with very little depth. It’s still entertaining – 80s bangers on the soundtrack, ridiculous hairstyles and glorious visual excess at every turn – but still a huge disappointment given what it could so easily have been.
Universal give us a lovely transfer, as expected. Even if it’s disappointing there’s no 4K release. Every bit as glossy as 80s Milan, its razor sharp and fizzing with colour. The Lossless Atmos track sounds equally fantastic - rich and full, and while the surrounds are engaged for ambience, there’s little in the sound design of the lovely overhead spot effects or LFE thumps that get our AV hedz blood pumping. And extras really disappoint – three featurettes totalling 20 mins in total are nothing but EPK fluff. Nothing on the real scenario depicted, just bland talking heads all saying how great everything is. Poor.
Film: 5/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 9/10 Extras: 3/10 Overall: 5/10
MGM’s HOUSE OF GUCCI, available to own for the first time on DVD & Blu-ray™ February 21, 2022.
8. Don't Go in the House
(1979, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-Ray, Release Date 7th February 2022)
Another of the infamous ‘video nasties’ to cross off the list, this low-fi grunge-a-thon from unknown writer/director Joseph Ellison straddles the line between Psycho’s repressed mommy issues and Maniac’s twisted and deranged plummet into the mind of a madman.
Donny (Dan Grimaldi) freezes at work when a man catches fire, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. However, what they don’t know is that Donny was subjected to cruel burnings from his mother as a child. And when his mother dies, it unleashes something inside Donny… something that makes him want to exact his revenge on any woman he can find. A hateful, flame thrower-powered revenge…
Never quite as grotty as William Lustig’s seminal slasher, thanks to a more mannered and much less sweaty performance from Grimaldi, it nonetheless feels grimy. Even some bizarre soundtrack choices and a hilarious disco scene doesn’t alleviate the sense of icky dread that follows Grimaldi’s decent performance. The kills (a flamethrower in an all-steel room) are mostly kept offscreen, only the first one shown in its still-decent glory. The charred corpses of his victims however remain a constant, goading poor Donny and invading his nightmares in some decent dream sequences.
It’s a little slow however – the lack of body count means we see more of Donny trying to pick up women than what he does with them and it’s often as painful as it sounds. His ‘confession’ to possibly the most unsympathetic priest in all of cinema (“jut forgive her Donny… you have to forgive her!”) is so poorly acted as to be almost laughable. And finally, it never quite goes as bug-nuts as you feel it needs to – Maniac works because Joe Spinell COMMITS (in every sense of the word) and Grimaldi, as good as he is, never gets close to Anthony Perkins’ level of pathos to be somewhat stranded in the character's no-man’s land between the two. Solid but not one of the genre’s finest entries.
Arrow deliver another stacked package though – three cuts of the film (theatrical, censored and extended TV version and an amalgamation of the two), three audio commentaries and a host of solid featurettes and video essays (all shared with the upcoming Severin release in the US), the pick of the bunch being a near 40 min look at the grindhouse phenomenon in general. Superb supplementals. The transfer is from a new 2K scan from the OCN (shared by all three cuts) and even though it’s fairly soft and there’s the odd sign of age-related damage, it looks decent – the obvious restoration work also done giving it a really solid, appropriate picture. The lossless mono tracks are similarly cleaned up. And this is also the first Arrow Video release to feature Audio Descriptions. And good work Arrow in keeping this priced as a single release, unlike other similarly stacked recent releases from them.
Note: if the Video Nasty version is ordered from Arrow, it comes with a 3rd disc – a chance to watch the theatrical version of the film in Cinema mode (complete with period stye cinema adverts at the beginning) and in similar VHS mode.
Film: 6/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 9/10 Overall: 7/10
Arrow presents Don't Go in the House on Limited Edition Blu-ray from 7th February 2022.
7. Catwoman: Hunted
(2022, Warner Bros., Region Free UK Blu-ray, Release Date 7th February 2022)
More fun and funky DC Universe animation from the comic book giants, again effortlessly surpassing almost all of the live action movies to date with one swipe of its jazz-fuelled gorgeous retro stylings.
A beautiful 80’s Japanimation style twist on the more anime-inspired versions of these classic characters, its opening 20 minutes is one of the most fun things I’ve seen in a while. From its astoundingly 60’s opening credits to its meta-opening act (the opening jewel heist takes place at a DC heroes and villains fancy dress party, a lovely touch that playfully says we know we’re part of this universe, but boy are we a different take on it), it's visually stunning, powered by the most furious jazz soundtrack heard in the last fifty years.
Sadly, that momentum can’t be maintained as the very light plot – Catwoman is recruited by Batwoman and Interpol to capture the heads of the Leviathan crime syndicate, headed by Barbara Minerva, in exchange for expunging her criminal record – starts to show its teeth. A second act showdown with the syndicate and a roster of distinctly second-rate hench people (Solomon Grundy is always dull. But Nosferata? Cheshire?????) sags, but the final act swings back round with a brilliantly violent and brutal final act bout of fisticuffs between Kyle and Minerva’s more feline alter ego.
The voice acting is decidedly hit and miss, with Elizabeth Gillies’ perma sex-kitten purr a highlight. And overall, it's fun, it's frothy, it's lightweight and all about that style.
Disc-wise, it's as solid as expected – clean, crisp lines and colourings support the animation wonderfully, however the lossless 5.1 soundtrack is very front focussed: rich and full with the music reproduction but decidedly uncreative in its overall sound design. Extras are a short 19 min look into the film and its origins and a much better 40 min look into the character, with all manner of vintage and archive interviews with previous ladies of the cowl.
Film: 6/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 6/10 Overall: 6/10
Catwoman: Hunted is set for release on Blu-ray, DVD and Blu-ray Steelbook on 7th February 2022 and on Digital Download on the 8th February 2022.
(2020, Acorn Media/Shudder, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 28th February 2022)
Isaac has a memory problem. But his landlord has just offered him a way to make some quick, easy money: go and babysit his niece on their remote family estate. Easy. There are only a few little snags to be wary of though: the niece, Olga, has severe emotional troubles... which means Isaac has to be strapped into a chained harness that prevents him from entering all the rooms in the house... and the strange rabbit toy that beats its little drum whenever anything comes near is starting to make an awful lot of noise...
Reminiscent in tone of Matthew Holness’ Possum from 2018 (and also because Jonathan French’s Isaac is the spitting image of a bearded Sean Harris), it’s a strange film. At once, full of ridiculous conceits – why would anyone agree to strap themselves into this bizarre contraption? – yet with a strangely interesting narrative that drops just enough breadcrumbs to hint at a solidly intriguing story. At once shifting from strange folk horror set up (the house is on a small island and is a borderline derelict) to reverse home invasion flick (Leila Sykes’ Olga has a penchant for crossbows…) before morphing into possibly a strange supernatural witchcraft jam come its crazed ending, it’s the kind of film that shows very little but hints at an awful lot.
Creeping dread grows from the off and is punctured by some supremely effective moments that are borderline jump scares but feel much less cheap – a corpse caught in torchlight wearing a hat in a strange way wouldn’t have been out of place in a classic 90’s J-Horror. And yet for all of this, it makes you work hard for its goodies. Sometimes too hard, almost proving to be too smart with its obliqueness. Yet when it finished, I found myself trying to piece it together rather than furiously haranguing it for making it too dense and obtuse. One of Shudder’s best films of last year (according to the service), it's certainly an interesting and often effective little chiller.
The disc from Acorn is similar to all previous Shudder releases – a razor sharp but very digital looking image, solid blacks but with a very flat overall image thanks to its digital source. Its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack has some fun with the creaks and groans of the house, with some really smart surround action. The extras package includes two commentaries and a set of storyboards.
Film: 7/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 4/10 Overall: 7/10
Acorn Media International presents Caveat on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 28th February 2022.
5. Dick Johnson is Dead
(2020, Criterion, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
An often baffling yet powerfully emotional documentary that follows a film maker staging elaborate deaths for her elderly father (who’s suffering from dementia) to help her come to terms with his imminent passing.
The most important element here is the beautiful relationship between father and daughter – tender moments of raw honesty and emotion are captured between Kristen and Dick, not only as they come to terms with his own dementia (the sale of their car as he moves from Seattle to live with his daughter is the moment of realisation of the loss of independence) but with the death of the family matriarch a decade earlier from the same condition, powerfully giving both an unflinching glimpse into what awaits. As we follow Johnson Snr adjusting to life away from his sprawling Seattle homestead and into a cramped one-bedroom apartment in NYC, his condition and its impacts on both are all too palpable and powerfully shown.
Both father and daughter are warm, empathetic individuals and the capture of these very human moments are without doubt the film’s highlights… far more successful than the bizarre and almost fetishistic recreations of death for poor old Dick. Gallows humour it most certainly is, but some of the attempts at this feel oddly manipulative, not just of us (a horrific moment of a paramedic administering CPR is not revealed to us to be wholly staged in the film – thank you IMDb for making me aware of that) but of their friends and family – they stage Johnson’s funeral while he’s still alive and seeing how impacted everyone is before Johnson pops out to applause feels decidedly unfair on all concerned. And the whole concept feels just a little odd – is the whole endeavour a selfish conceit on behalf of the film maker, subjecting her father to all manner of strangeness solely for her benefit? He may go gamely along with it but possibly.
But no matter what we may think of Johnson Jnr’s sense of humour or her reasons for undertaking such a project, the underlying heart of the film is massively affecting. And the level of dark whimsy shown all the way through continues right the way through to the end, giving us all the slightest and heartfelt hope that somehow, Dick Johnson won’t die… ever.
For a documentary, its image quality is pristine digital. Nothing at all to complain about, the naturalism of the scenes with Dick and Kristen looks every bit as solid as the flights of fancy as Johnson larks about in a colourful recreation of heaven. The lossless 5.1 soundtrack has some real fun with these moments and it’s a much more aggressive and creative track than may be expected for a film like this. There’s a commentary and about an hour's worth of making of featurettes that are solid… but is there enough here to warrant a purchase when the film is currently streaming for free on UK Netflix? Hmm. Probably not – the film doesn’t have a huge amount of re-watchability so as a one-watch, it’s a better streaming bet than a purchase (if you have Netflix of course).
Film: 8/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 9/10 Extras: 4/10 Overall: 7/10
The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, WRITTEN ON THE WIND and LOVE AFFAIR on 21st February 2022 on Blu-ray™.
4. Love Affair
(1939, Criterion, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
Leo McCarey’s infamous ‘weepie’ was so good, not only did he remake it himself in the 1957 Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr classic An Affair to Remember (and Warren Beatty did too in 1994), but it went on to influence a whole new breed of romantic comedies and dramas such as Sleepless in Seattle.
A long ocean crossing sees former nightclub singer Irene Dunne and world-renowned French playboy Charles Boyer fall in love, even though both are betrothed to others. Because of this, they make a pact that if their love was real, they should meet in six months-time on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, thus giving them plenty of time to work through their feelings for each other as well as their respective partners. However, things don’t always quite work out as intended and once that appointment at the top of the world has been missed, what will become of our two star-crossed lovers?
Unlike its spawn, McCarey keeps his film almost grounded – it's not a film of huge contrivances (well, bar one…) or grand emotional/melodramatic outbursts, but a film that feels somewhat authentic to these characters and how they handle their love. And even more brilliantly done is the way that McCarey brings shade and depth to both, especially Boyer – to begin with, an odious character, infamous for his dalliances and far too quick to begin another one with Dunne. But McCarey completely humanises him, not by some trite explanation for his behaviour, but by showing him to be a real person, with other sides to his personality. It’s something you don’t often see in films like this who seek to gain sympathy or empathy for behaviour rather that just accept these people to be flawed but fascinating characters.
But while Boyer is good, it’s Dunne who gets the meatier role and she’s wonderful. Slightly older than an ingenue, she has seen the world and is more interesting and better drawn for it. There are also some beautiful technical touches too in the form of stunning shot choices, especially a brilliant Empire State reveal in a reflection that Fincher would spend $20m producing today and still not get it half as good. Sure, its central contrivance is a doozy, but all the while you’re screaming at the characters to just get over themselves and talk to each other, it goes to show the film has its hooks in you and you’re invested. It may miss some of the more flamboyant touches of what came after, even some of the more overt melodrama might not have gone amiss… but this remains a lovely touching, old-school love story, perfect for old romantics everywhere.
As the short 5 min featurette on the disc about the restoration shows, there are no original elements left of the film. Work has been done on next gen prints to get it as good as it is here, but it's not top tier. It's incredibly soft and there is still minor print damage visible, even if grain and contrast look solid. The lossless mono track is cleaner and extras are also limited to the restoration piece, a 25 min chat with an academic taking us through the making-of and a clutch of radio adaptations and McCarey silent shorts.
Film: 8/10 Video: 6/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 4/10 Overall: 7/10
The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, WRITTEN ON THE WIND and LOVE AFFAIR on 21st February 2022 on Blu-ray™.
3. Sweetie, You Won't Believe It
(2021, 101 Films, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
Simply put, this is your new favourite cult classic.
Fresh from a starring turn at last year’s FrightFest, this Kazakhstan comedy-horror begins riffing on the likes of early Guy Ritchie meeting The Hangover (three inept friends take a fishing trip and via a series of massively convoluted twists and turns get entwined with a small group of equally inept small-time hoods and both fall into the sights of a one-eyed maniac and his dead dog) before barrelling headlong into Edgar Wright meets The Hills Have Eyes by way of a bizarre twist on The Loved Ones.
A heady brew indeed and while it’s an obvious jam of so many genres and influences, it somehow manages to come together into a riotous-crowd pleaser, reminiscent overall of the similarly bonkers Russian genre classic Why Don’t You Just Die! from 2018.
It has some brilliantly bloody kills, with the claret-splashed practical effects a real highpoint. But when a film blends all this and makes a scene that involves a location-identifying fart, a pantomime staple (“he’s behind you!!!”) and a horse rescuing a man from quicksand all somehow work, then you know it’s got something special. Superb soundtrack choices are another lift from Wright and Ritchie and the maniacal energy from director Yernar Nurgarliyev ploughs the entire film, all 84 brilliant and bloody minutes of it, straight into your hearts. It even manages to bring in a little emotion at its touching finale.
You’ve never heard of this. But you really should. A huge heap of grue-drenched, slapstick fun. Like Tucker and Dale vs Evil? Love this.
The transfer is solid without being exceptional – the digitally-shot picture is sharp and colourful but often feels not quite as detailed as you’d like. No anomalies are present and overall, it’s a fine image. The lossless Kazakh 2.0 soundtrack does a great job with the music, blending its richness with all the requisite gunshots and icky squishes nicely and very effectively. However, the subtitles are borderline rudimentary, an awful lot of the translation being beyond basic and probably just literal translations. And when the only extra is a trailer, it’s a shame to round out the disc like this. Good job the film (and its relatively low price point) is so bloody good then.
Film: 8/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 1/10 Overall: 7/10
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It gets its UK release on digital and Blu-ray release from 101 Films on 21 February 2022.
2. Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon
(1990, Eureka Classics, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 21st February 2022)
A hugely fun buddy-cop action comedy with Sammo Hung channelling Bruce Lee, this is highly energetic even if its non-action elements don’t always hit their mark.
As ever, plot is barely a consideration – Hung and his partner Karl Maka, the titular double act on the trail of a legendary drug baron, are infamous for both their insane brutality and their line in smart-mouth putdowns: the opening Circle K takedown of an attempted robbery perfectly showcases their blend of wise-cracking buffoonery, warm and jovial relationship and superb fight choreography. Eschewing most wirework and other such frippery, the action is lightning fast and shot in long takes with medium shots to wallow in the superb artistry of Hung and the stunt team.The final epic showdown is one for the ages as Hung and Maka take down an entire warehouse of goons before finally engaging The Cocaine King in an extended bout that has you feeling every punch and kick, but never losing its sense of deftness and fun.
But, as with most films of this ilk, there is a price to pay for all this goodness and sadly an awful lot of the character and comedy outside of the action scenes failed to land with this viewer. A dreadful mid-film jaunt to Thailand sees existential angst and one of the most painful Karaoke renditions ever put on film – Hung may have the martial arts skills, but his dancing makes JCVD look like Fred Astaire. However, the script (or the translated subtitles) still manages to throw out some pearlers – including the amusing “Yes, I’m most fond of this bourgeoise liberalism” and the all-time classic “What an anal ghost!”.
Come for the superb action choreography and brilliant banter, survive through the horrendous comedy and singing. Oh, and bear in mind this is a film from over thirty years ago, so there may be some very un-PC views expressed hilariously along the way…
The transfer from Eureka is gorgeous. The colours in the opening store are blisteringly bright and rich, which together with a medium and consistent grain field and some lovely fine detail levels (and no print damage) give a really pleasing picture from this 2K restoration. The lossless Cantonese mono track is free from all hiss (there is a Mandarin and two English dubs also available) and the subtitles, if a bit quick at times, don’t seem to have any obvious translation issues. Extras are brilliant – two commentaries, a handful of interviews from stuntmen and key creatives (archival most may be) and the pick of the lot, is a second disc housing a feature length documentary I am White Tiger which looks at the career of stuntmen Mark Houghton. It’s a superb watch on its own.
Film: 7/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 8/10 Overall: 8/10
Eureka Entertainment to release SKINNY TIGER AND FATTY DRAGON; the buddy-cop action comedy starring Sammo Hung, Karl Maka and Lau Kar-wing, who also directs; on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK from a brand new 2K restoration as part of the Eureka Classics range. Available from 21 February 2022 in a Limited-edition 2-Disc set (3000 copies only) featuring I AM THE WHITE TIGER; a documentary on the career of stuntman, martial artist, and action director Mark Houghton; making its worldwide debut on Blu-ray.
1. Torment aka L'Enfer
(1994, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 21st January 2022 - part of the Lies & Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol Box Set)
Famously started by Georges-Henri Clouzot (of Les Diaboliques notoriety) in the mid-60s and abandoned due to the director's ill health, Claude Chabrol was passed the script by Clouzot’s widow in the early 90s and given her blessing to freely adapt what her husband had started.
Francois Cluzet as Paul Prieur seemingly has it all – a stunning lakeside hotel and an equally stunning wife Nelly (the supernaturally beautiful Emmanuelle Beart of Mission: Impossible fame). Yet petty jealousies begin to lodge in his mind, not helped by the pressures of work and his now growing insomnia – he pictures Nelly engaged in all manner of infidelities with everyone from the local mechanic to aging hotel guests. And soon, these jealousies escalate into full on hysteria and Prieur’s behaviour gets more and more disturbing and dangerous…
Brilliantly played by both Cluzet and Beart, they utterly convince in every aspect of the narrative – Beart’s beguiling and seductive innocence, at once outrageously flirty yet almost child-like, is superbly portrayed so as to confound and confuse (helped by Chabrol’s structure always showing enough of her actions to cause that little nugget of doubt as to what we’re actually seeing); and Prieur’s slow descent into his own torment (or ‘hell’ of the French title) feels organic, natural almost, the pressures on him weighty and credibly drawn to act as the trigger for his emotional and psychological breakdown.
And while there are a couple of issues that hamper the film overall – it feels long at just over 100 minutes, Prieur’s jealous fantasies replayed perhaps one too many times, and a key plot point in the third act from a medical professional smacks of downright ineptitude – come its wonderfully oblique ending, we’re left with an emotionally raw character study of the power of jealousy wrapped up in very Clouzet-esque clothes of reality and dark, psychological fantasy.
Each film in this set (including Madame Bovary, Betty, Coq au Van and Inspector Lavardin) comes on its own disc and if this one is anything to go by, the set as a whole is very impressive. The transfer on Torment is a new 4K restoration and it shows – beautiful, richly saturated colours impress from the off and detail levels in the 1.66:1 transfer are as impeccable as they are appropriate. However, comparisons to previous releases show a remarkable shift in colour saturation with these new restorations which may not be exactly as originally intended. The lossless French 2.0 track is crystal clear and dialogue is perfectly prioritised. Extras include a full length and scene specific commentaries, plus a short introduction and two archival interviews with Chabrol and his co-writer. [Note: the scores below are for Torment as the other films have not yet been reviewed]
Film: 8/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 5/10 Overall: 8/10
Arrow presents Lies & Deceit: Five Films of Claude Chabrol on Blu-ray from 21st February 2022.
A massive spread of genres, it’s another month of seriously high-quality releases from our labels here in the UK. But in terms of picking a single title this month, there were several hurdles to negotiate along the way.
Mark’s Pick of the Month
SKINNY TIGER AND FATTY DRAGON
Why is this my Pick of the Month if the Chabrol film is ranked higher in the list above you might rightly ask? Two things – the first is that I haven’t had time to review all the films in the set and so the quality could be variable for such a pricey purchase; however secondly, that new colour timing is causing a lot of controversy amongst film and disc fans. I thought it looked tremendous but also conscious I haven’t seen any other versions before and so that change in colour timing may prove problematic for a lot of potential purchasers. Therefore, the Pick of the Month goes to my number two spot.
Hugely fun, even with some of its wonky comedy beats, it’s a hugely entertaining film on a disc that does everything right: top notch new 2K restoration work and a fascinating array of extras, the best of which being that second disc (which at the moment I believe is going to be exclusive to the first 3,000 pressed) with a fantastic look at the life of a HK stuntman included. Throw in the usual Eureka package goodies of fantastic slip/O-ring and insightful booklet (again for the first pressing only) and even with Arrow and 88 Films putting out a huge amount of martial arts classics recently, Eureka is more than a match for them with its own library of titles.
As ever, there were other films released this month that didn’t make this Top Ten – The McPherson Tape from 101 Films was one I was really looking forward to it, but sadly the film itself, often heralded as one of the originators of found footage, was really quite terrible (see my thoughts in the forums on this one). And in a month that includes new releases of 90s classics Wayne’s World AND Young Guns II, it pains me to not include them but with word that both weren’t using new transfers and had no meaty extras lined up (if any), I wanted to give the space to lesser-known films we may not know about. But do keep checking the forums for my thoughts on some of these later in the month as, when or indeed if they arrive.
So hopefully this little lot has got you well and truly in the mood for love. And if there’s nothing here that tickles your fancy, there’s always next month… Chaplin crops up via a Criterion release, another Dirk Bogarde classic from Ealing Studios is let out to play and a biggie from me, the superb and massive documentary on the entire Friday the 13th franchise, Crystal Lake Memories is released in the UK. Finally. So have a great month and see you all in March!
Please let us know how right or wrong we are, and tell us what you most enjoyed on Blu-ray in February 2022 in the discussion!